FRIDAY, 11 DECEMBER 2020Disclaimer: The contents of this article represent opinions and views shared on Twitter, and do not necessarily constitute peer reviewed scientific research.
Controversy and commentary on recent research; amusing quips and memes on academia; and well-intentioned advice for scientists, students and the public alike – these are just some of the fascinating, fun and informative things that can be found on Science Twitter and were heavily featured throughout the last couple of months.
It has been an amazing period for science: aside from the eagerly awaited reveal that researchers have succeeded in developing a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, fundamental research was also boosted by the news that DeepMind have developed an AI system called AlphaFold which can successfully use artificial intelligence to work out how a string of amino acids - protein building blocks - come together to make the final 3D protein structure. Figuring out the 3D protein structure from 2D information traditionally requires laborious experimental procedures, so this software is revolutionary in the field of structural biology, and naturally the reaction on Twitter reflected this amazing leap forward for science.
The @DeepMind protein folding result is really incredible, and incredibly important. But I know it’s pretty tricky to understand, so here’s a megathread, with a bit of Biology 101, for @holland_tom @thehistoryguy
— Dr Adam Rutherford (@AdamRutherford) November 30, 2020
Naturally, however, discussions on the recent COVID-19 pandemic continue on as we remain in uncertain times. Many in the scientific community have begun to reflect on how we can learn from this pandemic and adjust our lifestyles accordingly – naturally, how our society actually responds remains to be seen.
Our response to covid sometimes makes me feel like we’ve been too lax about other common viruses, like the cold and flu. People would go to work/school and casually talk about having a cold, while not wearing a mask and not really distancing from others. That needs to stop.
— Your Skincare Fav ✨ (@caveofbeauty) November 29, 2020
Controversy in the science community is natural. Research can change lives, and bad research can negatively affect society, so it is important for academics to critique and criticise unsubstantiated claims or poor interpretations of data. This, combined with the fact that academics tend to be passionate people, results frequently in public debates that often spool over on social media. A recently published paper in a high-profile journal showed that female students with female mentors tend to be less ‘successful’ in academia than other mentor-student gender pairings – whilst it is difficult enough to prove and substantiate this result by itself given the ill-defined concepts involved, seemingly unanimous criticism mainly focused on the following interpretation of the result in the paper, which claimed that the result indicates young female scientists should seek out male mentors instead. Discussion sections often allow for some speculation and subjective pondering on results, but significantly unsubstantiated ideas are considered too far and inappropriate for a scientific paper.
Nature Communications looking into paper on mentorship after strong negative reaction https://t.co/Z0OoR2x7eV pic.twitter.com/omKhEpImwA
— Retraction Watch (@RetractionWatch) November 19, 2020
Finally, it wouldn’t be Science Twitter without a few jokes, and we have seen plenty in these trying times aiming to lift the mood, like the following from dinos and comics. Next month is sure to see much of the same, perhaps with a Christmas twist!
Good morning #AcademicTwitter ☀️
Summarise your PhD experience in one image. I’ll start 📣#AcademicChatter @PhD_Connect @JohnHockey18 @PhDfriendSana @PhDVoice @HaPhDsupervisor @salmon_phd @AcademicChatter @YTacademics @MindfulAcademix pic.twitter.com/lHE0mapiC4
— Alice Wilson (@neither_both) December 1, 2020
Adiyant Lamba is a second year PhD student studying developmental biology, and News Editor for BlueSci.